Tuesday, August 28, 2018

How To Win At Kids Triathlon

Most kids triathlons are held over pretty short distances and much of the total time of the event can be spent in transition if they don't practice it! The goal should be to have your kid complete the triathlon without any assistance. Not always easy to keep your hands off when your kid is struggling with cold hands and wet equipment!

Here a few tricks to make the transitions easier:

Elastic Laces - You don't want your kid to have to tie shoe laces in the transition from swim to bike! There are two options. Shoes with Velcro they can just slip on. Or buy or make some elastic laces that you can replace the normal laces. A final tip. Sprinkle some baby powder in the shoe to avoid blisters. No time for socks!

Race Belt - Kids should plan to complete the triathlon in their bathers (i.e whatever they swim in). They do generally need to wear a number according to triathlon rules. The solution is to attach a number to a race belt and putting that on. Much quicker than putting a t-shirt on a wet body! You could probably make one with elastic from the craft store but you can also buy them online for about $10. May need to be modified for skinnier waists!

Most kids aged 6 and above should be able to handle the skills with a bit of practice.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Should I Do a Marathon To Prepare For My Ironman Triathlon?

I don't have anything deeply scientific to answer this question but it comes up often and I have a few thoughts on it. Except for the very elite, and even for them, marathon running bears little resemblance to Ironman distance triathlon running. Aside from obviously being a slower pace, the mechanics of running after 112 miles of biking are not the same. It's a marathon shuffle right from the beginning and for most will likely include some walking. Ironman running will also involve more variables such as calories intake and the associated possible digestive issues that go with that. They are the same distance but for "middle of the packers" you're trying to compare a 3-4 hour event with a 10-15 hour event.
Ironman shuffling at Arizona 2008

I get that psychologically, if you've never done either, covering the 26.2 distance may help with confidence but I think there are more and potentially better options from a preparation perspective. A half ironman event will give your legs some preparation for how it feels to run after biking in a 5-7 hour format. A long, over-distance bike ride (like 120 miles) will also be closer in total time to your goal event, and with only the swim proceeding it in the triathlon it will give similar sensations that you'll experience during an Ironman.

The other thing to consider about a marathon race as preparation for a long-distance triathlon is that it causes quite a bit of muscle damage with the pounding inflicted especially on the road. So yes, you're covering a large distance but if you get injured, or it takes you weeks to recover, has it really been that valuable a workout if it's impacted your total training volume overall? A triathletes motivation to do a marathon can sometimes be to get a time, test themselves out at a single sport, or just have a goal to motivate them to clock some running miles and that's fine. But I would always suggest a 6-9 month buffer between a marathon and a goal triathlon race to ensure an uninterrupted build up from either injury or an unbalanced training load.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Triathlon Transitions - Less is More

You log countless miles before your next Sprint triathlon to knock a few minutes off your time. Did you realize you may have let all that hard work evaporate in transition when you spent five minutes tying your shoes in a double knot and removing the sand from between your toes?

A couple of easy changes to what you do in transition can improve your overall time and, best of all, cost you nothing in blood, sweat and tears. First, get yourself some elastic laces for your shoes to avoid fumbling with laces with frozen, trembling hands. Use a product like Body Glide on your calves and ankles to slip your wetsuit off with ease. To go completely pro, attach your tri specific cycling shoes to your pedals and learn to slip your feet in the shoes out on the bike course while already on the go.

It might feel silly performing a transition in your backyard but all these things require a little practice to get right under the pressure of race day. You'll feel glad you did when you slip past your fast swimming friends thanks to some slick maneuvers in transition.

Below are my notes from my transitions clinic I run occasionally on how to set-up your transition area, an equipment guide as well as specific techniques to help you spend more of your race swimming, biking and running and less time fooling around in between.

Transition Set-Up and Preparation

The fastest place to position your bike is near the Bike Exit. If you’re free to rack your bike anywhere you may need to get there early to reserve the best spot.
Walk through the Transition Area, entrances and exits to familiarise yourself with the lay out. Pick a landmark next to transition (that won’t move during the race) to locate your bike.
Putting your bike in the right gear with enough resistance to push off but not too much that you can’t get going. (3rd or 4th usually works).
Attach your bike shoes to the bike.
Hook your bike up, by the seat preferably, so you can slip it off and push it forward.
Put baby powder in your shoes, drape race belt over runners, place sunglasses and helmet on handlebars (if secure).

Essential Equipment: Body glidetalcum powder and elastic laces.

Swim and T1

  • Switch to 6 beat kick 50 yard from exit to shunt blood to your legs.
  • Take wetsuit down to hips, take goggles and cap off.
  • Visualize transition while running from the shore
  • Stomp wetsuit while putting on sunglasses and helmet
  • No towelling, wiping, showering or bathing. 


  • Sunglasses, gloves, socks, accessories, nutrition - do you absolutely need them?
  • Leave your triathlon bike shoes on pedals and learn to put them on while riding
  • Know the last 500 yards of the course so you know when to start taking shoes off and enter T2 with bare feet.

T2 and Run

  • Grab cap and race belt and run with them putting them on as you go.
  • Don't forget to take helmet off!

Want to know if you're doing it right? Take a video and have me rate your transition.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Training logs for triathletes and runners: Why and how?

Goals and planning

A first step to starting a log is to set out your goals. Recording goals is an important element of effective goal setting (it's the "R" in S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goal setting strategy). From there you can plan your race season, putting in dates and priorities, so you can better understand how to focus your training. Diaries are also a great place to store your race results to connect what training led to what results.

All the data

Just recording the time, distance and pace of workouts will provide valuable information. Of course, with power meters and GPS watches now, you can also upload that information onto an online diary or store on a platform like Strava. Once you build a history of your training you'll be able to identify the cause and effect on what you've tried in training and the performance that followed. Replicate what worked.

Thoughts and feelings

TriLog Triathlon Training Dairy
Don't hesitate to get mushy in your diary. Research has shown that writing down your feelings, both positive and negative, can help you regulate your emotions. Research has also shown that subjective self-reported measures (mood, perceived stress) are more accurate than objective ones (heart rate, oxygen uptake) when trying to measure how you're coping with training load.

Sleep, weight and morning pulse

Aside the hard training data. metrics critical to sport performance such as hours of sleep and weight can be monitored and focussed on using a log. Monitoring your pulse at rest in the morning can be an indicator of both fitness and your state of recovery. It's also important to report any illness and injuries to help connect them to any training variations or equipment changes you or your coach may have tried.

There are many ways to record your training from a simple paper daily diary to a complicated software solution like Training Peaks. I use a simple spreadsheet I've developed over the years that I share with my athletes via Google Drive. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The mid-pre-season blues

When I was racing in France there was a saying that went Fort en janvier. Mort en julliet. Strong in January. Dead in July. In French it rhymes! Basically it meant if you were flying around the track, dominating winter races and, in short, feeling strong, you were going to be burnt out by the time the important summer races came around.

January seems to be a particularly tough time for athletes I coach. They don't see the early gains they see when they first get started in October/November. There a no races to freshen up for and use as motivation. Plus it's dark and cold and sometimes wet. And the holidays are behind them.

Also, I'm a big cumulative fatigue guy. My athletes are generally, at this point of the season, training frequently and consistently. No one workout is crazy in length or intensity but they are training often and combined effects mean they are tired. Most of the time. Tired at the track, tired for the long ride, so they don't feel fast or strong within themselves or compared to other and that's just fine. Fort en janvier. Mort en julliet.

Really, when I was in serious training, I always enjoyed this time of year. I could focus 100% on the training without the interruptions of racing. Skills and techniques and strength deficiencies can be worked on without panic. With experience, I also enjoyed holding back at group workouts knowing that I was laying down a foundation for the season. The measuring and comparing could wait.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Race Review - Stanford Treeathlon Triathlon 2017

Stanford Treeathlon Sprint Triathlon - 500m swim, 20k bike, 5k run. Redwood City, CA. March 4, 2017

Overall - ★★★★☆

Registration - ★★★☆☆
$90. Despite the good swag score I still think this is a little pricey for a sprint. I entered on the day. No line to sign up. That part was easy.

Swag - ★★★★☆
Long Stanford branded socks (very handy) and a nice black t-shirt (shiny tech material) which I wear to run in fairly often. No finisher medals (thank you!).

Course - ★★★★☆
Swim - Apart from it being quite cold as expected for that time of year (and it was raining pretty hard on and off) it was clearly marked and fairly easy to sight. You want to get around the first buoy pretty quick for the left hander then it's a straight shot to the wharf. Also, It's more like 600m than 500m. There's a long run to T1 but would still recommend going bare feet.

Bike - Completely closed to traffic which is rare and great. Flat and fast although did get a little congested in the later waves but nothing too dramatic. There are 3 laps and many pinhead turns so it's worth practicing them.

Run - Flat and straight forward out and back on a bike path. Can be windy. Get a sense of where the finish line before the race if it comes down to a sprint finish!

Post-Race Feed - ★★★☆☆
Can't remember. There were some energy bars. No beer (being a college race). We hit the In 'N Out on the way home!

Prizes / Results - ★★★☆☆
Stood around forever in the rain and cold. waiting for results. However got some bar tape for winning my age group worth about $20 so that was worth waiting around for. Results were online fairly quickly although I remember a few errors that took a bit to get corrected.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Arete: The Rapid Rise of Santa Cruz's Women's Running Club

Maleta Wright and McConville
 in their high school days
Mary Maleta Wright and Melissa McConville, a couple of self-described dorks who loved to run, met on the Soquel High School track team. Fast forward 15 years and they've recreated that love of running and community as adults by founding the Arete running club. Running has been at the core of the strong bond they’ve maintained through moves to college, pregnancies and various jobs. Maleta Wright ran on Division 1 teams at UCLA and Cornell University and McConville continues to compete in marathons and is the creator of the popular she.is.beautiful race series that takes place in both Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. They hatched an idea to start an all-women’s running club. Gathering feedback from other runners, they launched the team, which they called Arete, in 2016 with 20 members. The team has already grown to 70 members in Santa Cruz, with other chapters in the Bay Area and beyond having sprung up since, bringing the total number of Arete women up to close to 150.

So what’s the secret that led this particular running club to take off so rapidly? Some clues lie in the name Arete—a Greek word and virtue pronounced ahr-i-tey—that means excellence and encompasses a certain philosophy. The group’s core belief is that competitors must develop mind, body, and soul in order to achieve “arete,” It’s a balance that many women who have joined Arete believe they have come closer to since becoming a part of the team.

“I look forward to every Wednesday night track practice because regardless of the other externalities happening around me, our team’s compassion and positivity is contagious,” explains team member Charissa Rujanavech. “I always felt better after running sprints with my teammates.”

McConville and Maleta Wright finishing
the Wharf to Wharf as expectant
 mothers. https://runarete.com/about/
Arete’s model of an all-women’s team for experienced and intermediate runners is a unique one. Wright says that the current national atmosphere—with sexual harassment grabbing headlines, for instance–may have fuelled interest in build and seeking community. Women on the team who must run in the dark of early mornings to fit it in their schedules run in a group of five or six and feel safer in the streets together.

More than 60 members competed in the recent California International Marathon held in Sacramento, in either relays or the full marathon, with the top ten Arete members all finishing in under three hours and 20 minutes, a 7:37-per-mile pace. Included in that group was 62-year old Karen Kunz, from the Sacramento chapter, who set an age group course record of 3:15:06. Becky Lavelle, 43, a former reserve on the U.S. Olympic triathlon team, returning to competition for the first time since retiring, ran a time of 2:56:55.

The club has grown even when members reluctantly let go of the community they’ve discovered at Arete and move away. These women have spawned Arete teams in other locations. Other supporters found the club online, mostly through Instagram, and there are chapters opening up in Santa Barbara, Oakland, Sacramento and Chico. The team is upfront about the fact it’s not for just any rank beginner. “Must be able to run six miles continuously” is the requirement on the website and there are race time levels, “Open,” “Intermediate” and “Advanced” for the athletes to aspire to. That allows women who have competitive goals to run and socialize together without feeling like they’re leaving anyone behind.

While none of the women are professional runners, Wright and McConville are both from competitive running backgrounds. Wright, a certified running coach, leads practices on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Arete has redefined some women’s personal relationship with running. Santa Cruz member Monique Davila summed it up by writing “Running is no longer a task, but a privilege. When I lace up my shoes I no longer think, ‘I have to run today.’ I now think, ‘I GET to run today. How lucky am I?’”

Arete Women's Running Club is holding its 2018 Season Launch Party 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018 at New Brighton Middle School. There will be a fun run, complementary coffee, brunch and and an information session. For more information, visit runarete.com.